Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands/Chapter VII

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Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands by William Temple (1628–1699)
Of their Forces and Revenues

The Strength, and Forces, of a Kingdom, or State, were measured in former Ages, by the Numbers of Native and Warlike Subjects, which they could draw into the Field, upon any War with their Neighbours. National Quarrels were decided by National Armies, not by Stipendiary Forces, (raised with Money, or maintained by constant Pay.) In the several Kingdoms and Principalities of Europe, the Bodies of their Armies were composed, as they are still in Poland, of the Nobility and Gentry, who were bound to attend their Princes to the Wars, with certain numbers of Armed Men, according to the tenure and extent of the several Lordships, and Lands, they held of the Crown: Where these were not proportionable to the occasion, the rest were made up of Subjects drawn together by love of their Prince, or their Country; By desire of Conquest and Spoils, or necessity of defence; Held together by Allegiance or Religion; And Spirited by Honour, Revenge, or Avarice (not of what they could get from their Leaders, but from their Enemies.) A Battel or two, fairly fought, decided a War; and a War ended the quarrel of an Age, and either lost or gain'd the Cause or Country contended for: Till the change of Times and Accidents brought it to a new decision; Till the Virtues and Vices of Princes made them stronger or weaker, either in the love and Obedience of their People, or in such Orders and Customs as render'd their Subjects more or less Warlike or Effeminate. Standing-Forces or Guards in constant pay, were no where used by lawful Princes in their Native or Hereditary Countrys, but only by Conquerors in subdued Provinces, or Usurpers at home; And were a defence only against Subjects, not against Enemies.

These Orders seem first to have been changed in Europe by the two States of Venice and Holland; Both of them small in Territories at Land, and those extended in Frontier upon powerful Neighbours: Both of them weak in number of Native Subjects; and those less warlike at Land, by turning so much to Trafick, and to Sea: But both of them mighty in Riches and Trade; Which made them endeavour to balance their Neighbours strength in Native Subjects, by Foreign Stipendiary Bands; And to defend their Frontiers by the Arts of Fortification, and strength of places, which might draw out a War into length by Sieges, when they durst not venture it upon a Battel; And so make it many times determine by force of Money, rather than of Arms. This forced those Princes, who frontier'd upon these States to the same provisions; Which have been encreast by the perpetual course of Wars, upon the Continent of Europe, ever since the rise of this State, until the Peace of the Pirenees, between Princes bordering one upon the other; and so, ready for sudden Inroads or Invasions.

The Force therefore of these Provinces is to be measur'd, not by the number or dispositions of their Subjects, but by the strength of their Shipping, and standing-Troops, which they constantly maintain, even in time of peace; And by the numbers of both which, they have been able to draw into the Field, and to Sea, for support of a War: By their constant Revenue to maintain the first; And by the temporary charge, they have been able to furnish, for supply of the other.

I will not enumerate their Frontier Towns, (which is a common Theme,) or the Forces necessary for the Garrisons of them. Nor the Nature and variety of their Taxes and Impositions, though I have an exact List of them by me, expressing the several Kinds, Rates, and Proportions, upon every Province and Town; But this would swell a Discourse, with a great deal of tedious matter, and to little purpose. I shall therefore be content only to observe, what I have informed myself of their Forces, and Revenues in general, from persons among them, the best able to give that account.

The ordinary Revenue of this State, consists, either in what is levied in the conquered Towns, and Country of Brabant, Flanders, or the Rhine; Which is wholly administred by the Council of State: Or else, the ordinary Fonds, which the Seven Provinces provide every Year, according to their several proportions, upon the petition of the Council of State, and Computation of the Charge of the ensuing year, given in by them to the States-General. And this Revenue commonly amounts to about One and twenty Millions of Gilders a Year; Every Million making about Ninety thousand pounds Sterling, intrinsick value.

The chief Fonds out of which this rises, Is the Excise and the Customs: The first is great, and so general, that I have heard it observed at Amsterdam, That, when in a Tavern, a certain Dish of Fish is eaten with the usual Sawce, above Thirty several Excises are paid, for what is necessary to that small Service. The last are low and easie, and applied particularly to the Admiralty.

Out of this Revenue is supplied the Charge of the whole Milice, of all Publique Officers of the State, and Ambassadors, or Ministers abroad, and the Interest of about Thirteen Millions owing by the States-General.

The Standing-Forces in the Year 70, upon so general a Peace, and after all Reformations, were Twenty Six Thousand two Hundred Men, in Ten Regiments of Horse, consisting of Fifty Troops; And Nineteen of Foot, consisting of Three Hundred and Eighty Companies. The constant charge of these Forces stood them in Six Millions One Hundred and Nineteen Thousand Gilders a year.

Their Admiralties, in time of Peace, maintain between Thirty and Forty Men of War, employ'd in the several Convoys of their Merchants Fleets, in a Squadron of Eight or Ten Ships to attend the Algerines and other Corsaires in the Mediterranean; And some always lying ready in their Havens for any sudden accidents or occasions of the State. The common Expence of the Admiralties in this Equipage, and the built of Ships, is about six Millions a year.

Besides the Debt of the Generalty, the Province of Holland owes about Sixty Five Millions, for which they pay Interest at Four in the Hundred; But with so great ease and exactness both in Principal and Interest, that no Man ever demands it twice; they might take up whatever Money they desired. Whoever is admitted to bring in his Money, takes it for a great deal of favour; And when they pay off any part of the Principal, those, it belongs to, receive it with Tears, not knowing how to dispose of it to Interest, with such Safety and Ease. And the common Revenue of particular Men lies much in the Cantores, either of the Generality, or the several Provinces, which are the Registries of these publique Debts.

Of the several Imposts, and Excises, those that are upon certain, and immovable Possessions (as Houses and Lands) are collected by the Magistrates of the several places, and by them paid in to the Receivers, because both the number and value of them are constant, and easily known. Those which arise out of uncertain Consumptions, are all set out to Farm; and to him that bids most, some every three Months, some every six, and some yearly.

The Collection, Receipt, and Distribution of all Publique Monies, are made, without any Fee to Officers, who receive certain constant Salaries from the State, which they dare not encrease by any private practises, or Extortions; So, whoever has a Bill of any publique Debt, has so much ready Money in his Coffers, being paid certainly at call, without charge, or trouble; and assign'd over in any payment, like the best Bill of Exchange.

The extraordinary Revenue is, when upon some great occasions, or Wars, the Generality agrees to any extraordinary Contributions; As sometimes the Hundredth penny of the Estates of all the Inhabitants; Pole, or Chimney-money; Or any other Subsidies, and Payments, according as they can agree, and the occasions require; which have sometimes reached so far, as even to an Imposition upon every Man that travels in the common ways of their Country, by Boat, or in a Coach; in Wagon, or on Horseback.

By all these means, in the first Year of the English War, in 1665; There were raised in the Provinces, Forty Millions, of which Twenty two in the Province of Holland. And upon the Bishop of Munster's invading them, at the same time by Land, they had in the Year 66, above Threescore thousand Land-men in Pay; And a Fleet of above an Hundred Men of War at Sea.

The Greatness of this Nation, at that time, seems justly to have raised the Glory of ours; which, during the years 65 and 66, maintained a War, not only against this Powerful State, but against the Crowns of France and Denmark, in conjunction with them: And all, at a time, when this Kingdom was forced to struggle at home with the calamitous Effects of a raging Plague, that, in Three months of the first year, swept away incredible numbers of People; and of a prodigious Fire, that, in Three days of the second, laid in Ashes that Ancient and Famous City of LONDON, (the Heart and Center of our Commerce and Riches,) consuming the greatest part of its Buildings, and an immense proportion of its Wealth. Yet, in the mid'st of these fatal Accidents, those two Summers were renowned with Three Battels of the mightiest Fleets that ever met upon the Ocean; whereof Two were determined by entire and unquestion'd Victories, and pursuit of our Enemies into their very Havens. The Third having begun by the unfortunate division of our Fleet, with the odds of Ninety of their Ships against Fifty of ours; And in spight of such disadvantages, having continued, or been renewed for three days together (wherein we were every Morning the Aggressors,) ended at last by the equal and mutual Weakness or Weariness of both Sides, the maims of Ships and Tackling, with want of Powder and Ammunition; Having left undecided the greatest Action that will perhaps appear upon Record of any Story. And in this Battel, Monsieur de Wit confest to me, That we gain'd more Honour to our Nation, and to the invincible Courage of our Sea-men, than by the other two Victories. That he was sure, their Men could never have been brought on the two following days, after the disadvantages of the first; And he believed no other Nation was capable of it, but Ours.

I will not judge, how we came to fail of a glorious Peace in the Six Months next succeeding, after the fortune of our last Victory, and with the Honour of the War: But as any rough Hand can break a Bone, whereas much Art and Care are required to set it again, and restore it to its first strength and proportion; So 'tis an easie part in a Minister of State, to engage a War; but 'tis given to few to know the times, and find the ways, of making Peace. Yet when after the sensible events of an unfortunate Negligence, an indifferent Treaty was concluded at Breda in 67; Within Six Months following, by an Alliance with this State in January, 1668. (which was received with incredible joy and Applause among them,) His Majesty became the unquestioned Arbiter of all the Affairs of Christendom; Made a Peace between the two Great Crowns, at Aix-la-Chapelle, which was avowed by all the World, to be perfectly His Own; And was received with equal Applause of Christian Princes abroad, and of his Subjects at home; And for three years succeeding, by the unshaken Alliance and Dependance of the United States, His Majesty remained Absolute Master of the Peace of Christendom, and in a posture of giving Bounds to the greatest, as well as Protection to the weakest, of his Neighbours.